The Game of Life: Summer CSA 2017 – Week # 17
The other day I read Ta-Nehisi Coates essay in the Atlantic entitled the First White President. If you’ve never heard of Coates, he is very talented, very eloquent writer who writes about the experience of being a black man in today’s America.
The premise of his article is that Trump is our first truly white president, because it’s the first time in history someone with so little experience and skill has been elected to the most powerful office in the nation purely, just purely based on the color of his skin. He is the anti-Obama. The representation of an America that reacted in force to a black president. Coates argues that pretty much the only thing that got Trump there was his whiteness, and his use of his whiteness to attract white voters. He goes on to argue that many Trump supporters say they aren’t racist, yet what does it mean if they are willing to overlook Trump’s racism cloaked in the language of ‘traditional values’?
I had read this article last Wednesday night. Then on Thursday I went to do one of my semi-monthly volunteer shifts at the Road Home Shelter. (It’s a homeless shelter for families that moves between different churches throughout Madison).
That article and my experience has struck me hard, so hard that I’m here writing to you as your farmer – knowing that it’s not me you look to for opinions on issues of class and justice. But I feel compelled to use this platform.
Anyway, during my volunteer shifts my job is to play with all the kids after dinner. This gives the parents a needed break to rest, relax, and have time to focus on their long road towards finding stable housing.
I was playing with one of the young boys. He is about 10. (He, like every other parent and child at the shelter that week, was black. Every single volunteer there that night was white.) Anyway, he asked me if I would join him in playing a board game. So he pulled the game, LIFE from the shelf.
Now I remember playing this game as a kid and loving it! He knew this game and loved it too. But playing the game with this bright, friendly young boy broke my heart. The board game takes you through the American dream… you go to college, get a good job, have a family and kids, buy a house. And the game starts where you make a choice to start by either choosing a career or choosing to go to college. Meanwhile, every character depicted on the board and in the game is white.
As we spun the spinner and move our pieces, all I could think to myself was how terribly unjust our whole system can be. In my world of white privilege, as a child I expected that if I did well in school and worked hard, I would travel through the system and capture my part of this American dream – that the game of life was attainable for me. And I have. But to meet this young boy, here at a homeless shelter, playing the game of LIFE. This boy with dark skin in a world with a Trump after an Obama – it was so clear that this dream will be so much farther away for this young boy. Attainable yes, achievable yes – but not something he can expect in the same way that I could as a child.
Now I’m not saying this boy won’t achieve the American dream; rather I’m recognizing how much harder he will have to work for it than I ever did. As Coates argues, a black person can be president, but right now, in our world that achievement comes with so much more hard work than is required of a white person.
This boy’s parents are not raising him. This boy’s grandmother is, and she works at McDonald’s. This boy is homeless. His game of LIFE doesn’t start with the choice of a career or college… right now his choices are living in the shelter or on the street.
Poverty is real. Structural racism is real. White privelege is real.
As a white middle class organic farmer, every day I grapple with these issues. As I bunch mizuna, or load a truck, these ideas tumble around. Environmental concerns led me to where I am today in my career, but my everyday world is very white and doesn’t do much to help any social injustice. I’m not sure what to do about that. Where might be points of action where I can work to chip away at structural racism, white supremacy, unequal distribution of wealth and opportunity? These are big questions that I don’t yet have answers to. But I feel compelled to at least begin by putting it out there. By talking about race and injustice in spaces where that may be unwelcome.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy your veggies!
In the Box:
- Daikon Radish
- Delicata Squash
- Head Lettuce
- Onion, Bottle
- Pepper, Colored Bells &/OR Sweet Fryers
- Sweet Potatoes
- Anaheim Peppers (RED and packed into your Brussels)
- Bok Choi
- Brussels Sprouts
- Anaheim Peppers (Green)
- Chinese Cabbage
- Chinese Cabbage Rolls with Meat and Vegetables
- Disappearing Greens Stew
- Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce over Sweet Potatoes and Rice
- Sweet Potato Brownies
- Stir-Fried Bok Choi and Mizuna with Tofu
- Roasted Delicata Squash with White Beans and Greens
- Carmelized Fennel Flatbread
- Burrito Drive Pickled Radishes
- Chinese Cabbage Coleslaw
- Mashed Brussels with Parmesan and Cream